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Hall of Famer Bob Feller once said, “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”
It feels as if the Cardinals have been trying to put their failures behind them and start over since the start of the season. At 30-28, they’re certainly not doomed. But even though they rattled off nine wins in a recent 11-game stretch, it has never felt like this club has created much traction.
Joaquin Arias was hitting .138 entering Sunday’s game, and the only reason why he cracked the Giants’ lineup is because Michael Morse hurt himself when he fouled a pitch off his foot in pregame batting practice. And yet Arias had just as many hits and drove in three more runs than the entire Cardinals lineup produced on Monday vs. the Royals. Make all the pithy comments you want, but the end result is the same: That’s a joke.
In their last four games, the Cardinals have been shut out twice and have scored six runs, with four of those runs coming after they were already trailing 9-0 (Friday night vs. the Giants, a game in which Adam Wainwright started). Granted, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson have made plenty of hitters look foolish this season and are just two of a plethora of reasons why San Francisco currently owns the best record in baseball. Danny Duffy also carried a perfect game into the seventh inning May 17 against the Orioles and has only allowed one or fewer runs in four of his last six starts, so it’s not as if he lacks talent. But if wasn’t for Oscar Taveras’ home run and Michael Wacha’s gem on Saturday, there would have been more emphasis placed on Yusmeiro Petit only facing one batter over the minimum heading into the fifth inning and generally shutting the Cards down with mid-80s stuff.
Some have noted that if the Cardinals hadn’t handed the Giants Game 1 on Thursday night, then they would have split with San Fran over the weekend. You can justify the situation all you want, but the fact remains that the offense is rudderless. The power shortage remains, and with a roster like this, it’s baffling that it even exists in the first place.
This club lacks punch and, for as impressive as Taveras’ shot was on Saturday, it’s too much to ask of a 21-year-old rookie to carry an offense that still contains Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta. The pieces that this club was counting on this offseason simply haven’t produced.
Here’s another frustrating aspect from the past week: The Yankees and Giants weren’t even at full strength. There’s no shame in dropping two of three to a New York club in the midst of Derek Jeter’s farewell tour, but neither Carlos Beltran nor Mark Teixeira made an appearance in the series. The Giants have the best record in baseball, but Buster Posey played only one of the four games over the weekend. The Cards also didn’t have to worry about 2012 postseason killer Marco Scutaro, starting first baseman Brandon Belt or No. 2 starter Matt Cain, who was scratched on Saturday due to a hamstring injury. Morse, Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval are still a dangerous collection of hitters, but how good could a healthy Giants squad look in a month when the Cards travel to San Francisco for a three-game set?
The good news is that the only number that truly matters right now is five, which is the exact number of games by which the Cardinals trail the first-place Brewers. After what transpired in 2011 and again in 2012, when this team rallied in Washington, five games looks like an AB brewery tour. This club still has a lot of baseball ahead of it, and it hasn’t come anywhere close to playing at its best.
But that’s also part of the problem. Nobody expected them to hit .330 with runners in scoring position again, but there’s no reason a roster with this much talent should lack an identity, either. Feller was right: There will be a new day and a new game for the Cards, who will once again host the Royals. But in order for this club to find sustained success this season, today can’t continue to be about putting yesterday’s failures behind them.